JavaScript must be enabled in order for you to use the Site in standard view. However, it seems JavaScript is either disabled or not supported by your browser. To use standard view, enable JavaScript by changing your browser options.

| Last Updated:: 26/12/2016

Who will answer the fish God’s prayers?











Cultural and religious traditions influence the protection of wild species. However, certain practices may not benefit the species though they seem to fetch handsome returns for the humans who propitiate the Gods named after the species! A few kilometres from Jogindernagar (Himachal Pradesh) is situated the Machhendra Devta (Fish God) temple at Machhial along a tributary of the Beas, the Ranna Khad stream. The Golden mahseer are found in great abundance here. According to local belief, Lord Vishnu is incarnated from the mahseer and the legend goes that if a person’s wish is fulfilled, then a gold nasal ring is to be put around the operculum of the mahseer and the fish released back into the stream.




Local fishermen with cast nets would oblige pilgrims by catching mahseer. However, once the pilgrim’s back was turned, the fishermen would strive to catch the ‘gold’ mahseer so that they could pocket the rings. Fortunately, with increasing awareness, the ring custom has declined. However, people continue to feed fish with ‘atta’ balls (wheat flour) and bread. Since mahseer feed on aquatic vegetation and animal matter, their digestive systems are not suited for starchy foods as these attract bacteria and cause dysentery, besides fungal diseases. “The ring custom would injure the mahseer. Though the mahseer eat ‘atta’ thrown by pilgrims, this is not a choice food for fish. Since the stream is running water, the negative effects of the food thrown are diluted. However, at the sacred Rewalsar lake (Mandi district), where water stagnates, pilgrims excessively feed Common carps leading to annual mortality of fish. Religious sentiments prevail in such situations,” Dr Gurcharan Singh Bansal, director-cum-warden of fisheries, told this writer.





On the positive side, the stream comprises a mahseer sanctuary protected by local custom. Such protection is better insurance for mahseer than armed wildlife department guards! Droves of darting, thrashing mahseer lend a golden hue to the crystalline, mountain waters of Ranna Khad. It is nature’s way of offering gold to Machhendra Devta. But will the prayers of mahseer be fulfilled? That an era dawns when pilgrims embrace modern knowledge, offer nothing to the mahseer but protect their waters, and yet remain secure in the belief of their traditions and the worship of their Gods.







Source: Hindustan Times